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Area firearms owners applaud gun rights

Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling strikes down Washington, D.C., handgun ban

POSTED: July 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

JoAnn Hitman reloads her gun at the shooting range at Oakwood Sportsman's Lodge Thursday. By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court has upheld the Second Amendment right for private citizens to bear arms.

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JoAnn Hitman is new to guns and their use. Having just bought one three months ago, she is now learning how to use one.

But she knows just where she stands on the Second Amendment and "the right to bear arms."

"It’s the old story of, if the criminals have guns and the rest of us don’t, that’s not a good situation," said the Gillsville woman, who was at the Oakwood Sportsman’s Lodge firing range Thursday as part of Ladies Day.

"... I would be very angry if someone told me that I couldn’t have a firearm, " she said.

Hitman and other gun owners celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling Thursday that Americans have a right to own guns for self-defense in their homes.

It was the justices’ first major pronouncement on gun rights in U.S. history.

Their decision struck down the District of Columbia’s 32-year-old ban on handguns as incompatible with gun rights under the Second Amendment.

The amendment reads: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a leading gun control advocate in Congress, criticized the ruling. "I believe the people of this great country will be less safe because of it," she said.

The law adopted by Washington’s City Council in 1976 bars residents from owning handguns unless they had one before the law took effect.

Shotguns and rifles may be kept in homes, if they are registered, kept unloaded and either disassembled or equipped with trigger locks.

That provision in the law "pretty much precluded (the weapons) being used in a self-defense situation," said Walt Sippel, firing range manager at Oakwood Sportsman’s Lodge at 4080 Mundy Mill Road.

"I believe the framers of our Constitution were all in favor of the American citizens being able to defend themselves and their properties," he added.

"The founders of this country, when they wrote the Constitution and the first 10 Amendments, had just finished fighting a horrible war against an extremely oppressive government, and they didn’t want that to ever happen again," Sippel said.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle released a statement hailing the court decision as "very good news."

Gainesville Police Chief Frank Hooper said, "I’m a strong supporter of Second Amendment rights and I believe that those who obtain a firearm lawfully have a right to possess that firearm."

He said he encourages gun owners to get a weapons permit.

"There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with gun ownership, too," Hooper said. "I encourage anybody who chooses to own a firearm to make themselves familiar with the rules and regulations and the state laws concerning the right to carry (guns)."

He also encourages training in a gun’s proper use and safety.

"If you’re carrying it for protection, you need to know when (to use the gun)," Hooper said.

Hitman said she bought a gun because she had become "more and more concerned about my personal safety."

She and a friend decided to find a training course "to learn to shoot, not just go off half-cocked and buy a gun."

"It was something that I had been putting off doing for a long time," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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